Bill to require labeling of ‘manufactured’ meat

DES MOINES — A bill that’s cleared an Iowa Senate committee targets protein products marketed as meat, but that are made from insects, plants or even stem cell cultures.

Selling something labeled as beef, chicken, pork, turkey, goat or lamb that contains even a small percentage of protein that’s not meat would become illegal in Iowa. The fine for the crime would be $855 and the potential for up to 30 days in jail.

Senator Dawn Driscoll, a Republican from Williamsburg, is the bill’s sponsor. “We are trying to promote meat in the state of Iowa,” Driscoll said during a Senate Agriculture Committee meeting last week, “and we are trying to not mislead customers.”

Driscoll, who is chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, raises Angus cattle on her family farm in Iowa County. “Our taxpayer dollars should be supporting our agriculture here in Iowa, not some hedge funding fake meat company,” Driscoll said. “…We are also protecting the consumers as far as labeling.”

The bill would prohibit the three state universities from conducting research into the production or use of manufactured protein products. “The Regent universities are not doing it now,” Driscoll said. “We’re setting a precedent in Iowa.”

Senator Nate Boulton, a Democrat from Des Moines, said cutting off research is unwise. “We may learn things that are dangerous from cultivated food products. We may learn things that can have potential healing properties that were never thought of before,” Boulton said. “This bill seems to have the effect of knocking the peanut out of George Washington Carver’s hand before he could get started.”

Senator William Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, said the bill pits the livestock industry against farmers who’re raising protein-rich soybeans. “We need to continue to have research on all our products so that we can have value added agriculture in this state,” Dotzler said.

If the bill becomes law all of the state’s school districts, Iowa’s community colleges as well as Iowa, Iowa State and U-N-I would be required to have policies preventing the purchase of plant- or insect-based food labeled as meat.